Here’s a succinct video describing the multi-layered prophetic nature of the Sabbath:
This is part of a series that began here.
The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.” This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.
What the Verses Seem to Say
Peter’s vision seems to mean that animals previously classified as unclean are now to be considered clean. A voice from heaven said that what God has made clean, we can’t call common. And the voice spoke it three times just to be sure we didn’t miss it! It seems pretty obvious, doesn’t it?
But there are at least three problems with this interpretation:
- God’s word from Genesis up to this point has been very clear about what animals count as food and which do not.
- Other dreams and visions throughout scripture use figurative elements to communicate their message.
- Peter and everyone else who heard the vision interpret it in a figurative way.
The First Problem: God’s Word
The first problem is that God very specifically laid out which animals He created for food and which He didn’t want us eating or even touching. And it wasn’t just in the Mosaic law. Way back at the time of the flood, there were clean and unclean animals. God commanded Noah to take seven pairs of all clean animals and one pair of the unclean.
God also clearly laid out his thoughts about those who eat unclean animals throughout the scriptures. In the last post about Mark 7, we looked at God’s very explicit words about those who eat unclean animals.
Peter knew the heart of God about this topic and was emphatic about his compliance when he said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.”
The Second Problem: The Interpretation of Other Dreams and Visions
This section I’m reprinting with permission of a friend. He put it very succinctly.
Question 1: “Pharaoh had a dream about seven fat cows, followed by seven skinny cows. Was the dream really about cows?”
Answer 1: “Of course not! Scripture reveals just a few verses later that the dream was about seven years of plenty, followed by seven years of famine.”
Question 2: “Joseph had a dream about his brothers’ sheaves of wheat bowing to his own sheaf. Was the dream really about wheat?”
Answer 2: “No! Later on, we learn that this was a prophecy, foretelling of the event when his brothers would come to Egypt, not recognize him, and yet bow down to him.”
Question 3: “Nebuchadnezzar had a dream about a multi-metal statue. Was the dream really about a statue?”
Answer 3: “Not at all! It was about the different kingdoms that would arise, starting with Babylon. Daniel gives the interpretation right after the dream is revealed, just a few verses later!”
Question 4: “Peter had a dream about a sheet of unclean animals. He hears a voice say, ‘Arise, slay, and eat.’ Was his dream really about unclean animals now becoming acceptable as food?”
Answer 4: “Of course it was! Can’t you read? He says slay and eat! Duh! Of course all unclean meats can be eaten now! Never mind verse 28 where he says something about PEOPLE being unclean; that is completely unrelated. This dream doesn’t need to be interpreted, it should be taken literally.”
To recap, we clearly see dreams and visions throughout scripture using figurative elements to communicate their message. Their actual meanings are always given afterwards. Peter’s vision is no exception, which leads us to the last point.
The Third Problem: Peter’s Interpretation
Though the common interpretation of this passage is that the dietary laws have been done away, that’s not at all the conclusion of Peter or any of those who heard the vision.
In Acts 10:28, Peter says what he learned from the vision, and it had nothing to do with food. “God has shown me that I should not call anyone impure or unclean.” He sees that the vision was about people.
In Acts 11:10-12, when Peter is recounting the whole thing to the circumcised believers in Jerusalem, he says, “This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven. And behold, at that very moment three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea stopped at the house where I was staying. The Spirit told me to have no hesitation about going with them.” Peter connects the three repetitions of the vision with the three Gentile men who came.
When those circumcised believers heard that, they “had no further objections and praised God, saying, ‘So then, even to Gentiles God has granted repentance that leads to life.'” Everyone there understood that the vision was about the Gentiles.
Peter and the rest of the believers all understood the vision to be about people. Instead of continuing with the man-made laws that Jews used to stay separated from Gentiles, they were being instructed to embrace the Gentiles who had been cleansed by faith as fellow heirs of life. Reminds me of Ephesians 2:13-14, “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility.”
Certainly, if someone had understood the vision to mean all of God’s previous food laws had been turned on their head, someone would have mentioned something about it. It would have been a big deal, and certainly there would have been record in the book of Acts or elsewhere in historical documents of some segment of the believing Jews who would have taken great issue with such an interpretation. But there are no such accounts because no one came to that conclusion. They understood that God wanted them to stop viewing Gentiles as unclean and to welcome them as brothers.
Peter’s vision did not challenge Mosaic law by changing the definition of food. The vision merely challenged the man-made notion that all Gentiles were unclean.
(For those few of you who follow this blog, you may be surprised to see this series resurrected. I began it several years ago, and then left it when other duties in life were more pressing. However, our two oldest kids are now 11 and 13. They are beginning to get questions about their walk. Why do they do certain things and not do other things all their other believing friends do? While we’ve had many extensive conversations about these things, it seemed to be a good time to lead them systematically through an official study of the controversial verses of the Christian life. Using the posts I’ve put together here seemed like a good starting place. Hence the resurrection.)
In this series we are exploring New Testament verses commonly used to show that the law has been altered or abolished. The series started here.
Didn’t the Jerusalem council unequivocally decide that Gentiles weren’t constrained to follow the law of Moses?
Here’s a quick recap of what was going on in Acts 15:
Some believing Jews argued that Gentiles couldn’t be saved unless they first kept the law of Moses, including circumcision. But Peter, Barnabas, and Paul recounted the miracles done among the Gentiles and argued that God had seen their believing hearts and had already granted them salvation because of their faith.
Not even the Jews were required to walk obediently in order to earn salvation. God had redeemed and freed His people before He instructed them in how they should walk. Requiring obedience in order to earn salvation is a yoke no one has ever been able (or even asked) to bear.
The problem was that the newly saved Gentiles engaged in a highly idolatrous lifestyle. In order for these new converts to rightly worship God, they needed to first be willing to abandon their idolatrous activities of temple prostitution, strangling idol offerings, drinking blood of offerings, etc. The first things on God’s Top 10 list deal with worship of God alone, so it’s no wonder why the first commandments given to the new converts were ones to prove their single-heartedness towards the only true God.
In fact, instead of the law being done away for former Gentiles, they are actually being pointed right to it! This list of first commandments for the new converts is a perfect summary of the commandments given in Leviticus 17-18. They are even listed in the same order!
No one expected this list to be all the former Gentiles ever did in obedience to God. Their obedience was expected to continue to grow. Verse 21 contains an enlightening glimpse into the head of James who was making the recommendation:
“For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.” (Acts 15:21)
The new converts would come to the synagogues every Sabbath and would hear the law being read, as written down by Moses. The assumption seems to be that as they heard it, they would be conformed to it. This group of people didn’t grow up under the instruction of the Lord. They would need time to “grow” up into it just as the Jewish children did.
So it seems more Biblically accurate to see Paul as a misunderstood, God-fearing, Torah-observant man who believed that salvation was a matter of faith and that obedience to the law was a result of that faith. When so many others believed that obedience to the law must precede salvation, we can see why Paul’s message was controversial and misunderstood.
You are officially a teenager!!!! Talk about what the transition has been like.
There have been a lot of emotions. More than when I was little. It’s been fun and scary. Those two words sum it up pretty much.
We did a special weekend getaway to celebrate this big transition. Describe what we did.
Well, we talked about a lot of important growing-up things. We did a lot of fun activities representing things like steering clear of peer pressure and maintaining purity. It was mostly teaching me what to watch out for, what to avoid, how to stay pure in the years before I get married.
(The puzzle was our first activity of the weekend. She had to try to do her puzzle (on left) without the box as a guide. I, on the other hand, had my box. I was able to get much further along in the allotted time, because I used my guide. We talked about the Word and her parents being her guides through this transition into adulthood. Sweet, fun times!)
There were five sessions:
BEGINNING THE JOURNEY
Challenges, Traps, and Choices
RUNNING WITH THE HERD
Friendships and Peer Pressure
READY FOR AN UPGRADE?
Changes in Him, Changes in Her
DESTINATION: LÉ PURE
CROSSING THE DATE LINE
Seeing Dating Differently
Which of the five sessions was your favorite?
I didn’t have a favorite. They were all really cool and helpful. I really enjoyed it all. I like the devotional too. (The devotional is something that continues the conversation for another month or so after the weekend getaway.)
Tell about where we went and the fun things we did aside from the sessions.
We left Uncle Brian and Aunt Casey’s house after service on Shabbat and we went to a bed and breakfast owned by Mr. David and Mrs. Margie called Inn on the Greenway, because it’s on the Greenway. It had kind of a country theme. It was cozy and welcoming.
We went to our room and did a session. Then we went for a bike ride on the Greenway. We almost crashed twice, because mom isn’t good at selfies. No offense to you, Mom. (None taken. I discovered this weekend that my selfie skills are sorely lacking.)
We rode a long way, then turned around and went back. Then we did another session.
We got ready for bed and played worship songs on the fancy smart TV in our room. We had a great crying time. At least I cried. Then we went to sleep. When we woke up, we did one session and then went down and had breakfast with all kinds of delicious things. We even tried grits, which weren’t that bad. Then we did another session before we checked out.
After we checked out, we went to get lunch at Panera, which was awesome. Their chicken Caesar salad is really good. We listened to another session in the car on our way to Ocoee Horseride. (The activities for the weekend were kept secret until we actually got to the location. On our way to the horseback riding place, which was out in the middle of the country, she kept guessing. “Are we going to milk a cow? Are we going to paint a barn? Are we going to shuck corn?” She had me laughing, for sure.) Mom’s horse didn’t stop eating the whole time, which was funny.
We ended up getting a free riding lesson, because it started pouring rain immediately after that picture was taken, and we weren’t able to finish the last ten minutes of our ride. It was a total God thing.
After that, we met up with Daddy to get dinner at Olive Garden, which was also super delicious.
They gave me a free birthday dessert of donuts!
And mom and dad gave me a purity ring that they got from a store in St. Augustine where they also got their promise rings that they exchanged before they got married. That was super-awesome, because the ring is so pretty. It’s too big for me, but that’s another story. (I think I bought a size 9 ring instead of a size 6. It was a rushed, super-secret purchase made as we were passing through St. Augustine this summer. Unfortunately, it can’t be resized, so she’s currently wearing it on a necklace chain.)
The only thing that would have made the weekend better is if I had been able to hug Yeshua.
I also had you read Betrothed before our weekend. Tell me how that book affected your ideas about the time leading up to marriage.
My ideas about the betrothed vs. engagement topic? Yeah, I wasn’t really sure about betrothal before this book. Even though a couple, very good friends of ours, went the betrothal route, I didn’t favor the idea (and the wife influenced and impacted me greatly as I grew old enough to understand these heavier topics.) At the time, I felt that betrothal was kind-of old-timey and out-dated, considering that these days everyone is going engagement. But then Mom mentioned Betrothed. Inside, I was kinda like, “Great, this is going to be exciting.” (Sarcasm.) But as I began to engross myself in this (seemingly) new world where purity and emotional cleanliness and betrothal was the norm, I could easily picture myself doing this. I started feeling a churning desire to stay pure (one that I hadn’t felt with such passion before) like all these wonderful – and by no means completely perfect – people. And this great longing fills me, to have a wedding with a continual knowledge that the bigger picture is of a bigger and better wedding, one that’s soon to come and (as my mom likes to remind us) “still on, always on.” I knew my perspective was shifting and I was fine with that. I could have an almost-totally foreign wedding one day, like my friend who I admire so much; I fully embraced the idea. My worries and wondering on what it would be like and whether I would regret not doing it the traditional way vanished. The simple beauty of interactions the now-married couples in the book had with each other shocked me. I fell in love with the total purity and the honest words many spouses were able to speak to the other: “I waited for you.” I was (not unpleasantly) surprised at how colorful these relationships were; I had anticipated dry, blunt expression of love, since the typical boundaries of two of these people in a relationship seems to be pretty tight. I was amazed at this new discovery… and overjoyed! If you have the same position I had, read Betrothed!
Another big change this year, is that you’ve begun co-op classes. Tell me about those.
They are super hard, but they are good for me. I’m wondering if maybe I should have started with one class.
Tell me about the two classes you’re taking.
Literary Analysis I and U.S. Government and Constitution.
Lit. I is fun and not too challenging, because it involves a lot of creative writing and reading, which are two of my favorite hobbies anyway. Our teacher wants us to annotate everything we read. It’s not exactly torture, but it’s not your everyday fun-ness either.
U.S. Government and Constitution is the harder one to keep up with. I can’t say I regret deciding to take it, though, because it’s taught me a lot about government that I would have never gone to learn otherwise. My favorite parts are probably writing the papers, believe it or not. I hated writing papers before this. Writing papers was like going and trying to move a couch by myself. I did not like it. But this class has opened up an experience for me that has really changed my perspective on that. And Mrs. Davies is really nice. She is so gracious and passionate and fervent about what she’s teaching.
The classes are also fun, because now I’ve started making friends around my own age. Friends all around. Friends are happy.
Tell me about these friends.
One friend, Sylvie, has been my first local girlfriend. (Adeline has been a longtime best friend, but she lives in Knoxville.) She is super funny and laughs a lot. She’s fifteen, but she enjoys my company, and I enjoy hers. We are both taking Literary Analysis I, and we email back and forth often.
Another friend, Juliana, is one I just made recently. She does church on Saturday too. She couldn’t believe it when I told her we do church on Saturday too. So, now we’ll be able to work out hangout times together, because our Sabbath is the same day.
One of the other big changes with teenagehood is something you got to do this Sukkot…
Staying up late! It was super fun, because it was a time when I got to feel a little bit older and got to enjoy Sukkot even more than I had been able to before. Mostly, I talked with some of the other older kids. Part of staying up was doing worship with the adults one night. We also played “signs,” which was a lot of fun.
What do you want to do when you grow up?
I have many plans for my future. I have a feeling that they may get a little chaotic, and they are subject to change a great deal as my hobbies and things change. I want to teach some kind of something. But wait. I’m getting ahead of myself.
First, I want to get a job somewhere which I haven’t super-figured out yet. But when I turn 16, I’ll probably want to work in a coffee shop, or some kind of bakery, or Dunkin Donuts, or something like that. Then I want to get a car. Then I’ll probably want to go to college and graduate in creative writing or literature. Then I’d like to travel a little bit – Israel, Africa. Doing missionary work when I’m financially able. Then I want to come back to the states – unless something changes during the mission work – and I want to start to teach. Maybe. Things might change.
I would like to get married at some point and start a family. This might sound crazy… but I do want to do some traveling with my family and live in some other parts of the world.
The rest of my life ahead of that is a free zone that I haven’t planned yet.
So, writing and illustrating isn’t a part of your life plan anymore?
Well, I do want to continue with art – painting and sketching and all that. I’d like to continue doing that and writing on the side. But maybe I won’t write and then illustrate MY OWN stories anymore, because… this is really sad, but I can’t make two people look alike. Everyone in my world of art is different, which really stinks, but it is what it is (like Mimi says). So I’m going to plan that I’ll never be able to make two look the same. But I do want to write and publish very soon. Yes, I do want to do that.
So, that’s a glimpse into our teenage girl. What a joy she continues to be to us. We are blessed to be able to walk with her and watch her grow into the woman God designed her to be.
You’re eight! How does it feel?
I don’t know. The day after my birthday I felt older.
How exactly did it feel older?
With her face scrunched and a big smile on her face, she said: I’m not really sure.
Tell me about something you’ve been praying for this past year.
I’ve been praying that God would talk to me. It took a while, but then He started and has kept on talking to me. Satan tries to act like he’s God too and tries to imitate the voice of God, so sometimes I hear two things and don’t know which to listen to.
So, it’s been a time of training in discernment, right?
How have you learned to distinguish whether you’re hearing from God or not?
I am praying that I would continue to learn if it’s God’s voice.
Tell me about one time recently that God spoke to you and it blessed your dad.
Oh, I remember that. It happened just before I turned eight. Well, Dad was angry once and was struggling. I left the room quietly, and God told me to write a note that said, “We still love you.” I put it on his computer. When he saw it later, he said it really helped. And when I told him that God told me it would help, it made Daddy even happier.
Do you know that God spoke to you when you were really little?
No, I don’t think He did.
Well, He did just after you turned two. I was praying with you as we usually do before sleep. You interrupted the prayer repeating, “Doe.” I wasn’t sure what you meant, but since you were so persistent, I began trying to decode. After several failed attempts, I threw out the guess, “Miguel?” You smiled and nodded an emphatic yes! So, I prayed for him and then moved onto other people. But you weren’t satisfied with that amount of prayer for him, so you repeated his name. “Doe!” I prayed more until you were satisfied.
Come to find out, he was really struggling that night with discouragement from a recent job loss and really needed that extra prayer. Our God is so merciful to give us insights like that! I prayed at the time that your life would be filled with prophetic dreams and prayers like this, and now, He is showing His faithfulness to answer that prayer!
Why haven’t you told me this before?
I did! It’s in your baby book. I just remembered it recently again as we’ve been talking about you wanting to hear more from God.
Okay! Onto other things. Tell me about things you like to do.
I like jump roping, playing games with my siblings. Simeon and I are playing a game right now where he runs a motel and I am going to try to get hired. I think it’s going to work.
What are you going to do for him in his motel?
I’ll cook, clean, and probably maybe do some guest stuff like cleaning their rooms and making their beds. Stuff like that.
Is that the same game you were playing with him yesterday when you all gave everyone menus for lunch and took their orders and served them?
No, in this game its fake food. We’re doing it in the girls’ room.
What else do you like to do?
I like riding bikes, sometimes hopscotch, and riding scooters with my friend at park day.
What’s her name?
Her name is Isabelle. I also have another friend at soccer named Isabelle (or Isabella, I’m not sure). (These Isabelles are her first friends outside of the fellowship.)
I know there are other things you like to do. Tell me about those.
I like to paint nails. I love to paint nails! I like to sing also.
Tell me about the chores you do during the week.
It depends on what week it is. Some weeks I do dishes. Some weeks I do sweeping. And some weeks I clear and wipe the counters.
What about the new morning chores I implemented this summer?
That would be doing laundry, watching Zephaniah, or making breakfast. I kind of like doing laundry. Removing the fluffy stuff from the dryer is kinda fun.
Tell me about your favorite foods.
You mean dessert foods? (She doesn’t like the title “Sugar Queen” anymore, but she still goes straight for the sweets – haha!)
If you’d like to tell me about desserts you may.
I love ice cream. I like chocolate covered strawberries. And I like brownies.
What foods did you pick for your birthday week?
I picked blueberry pancakes for breakfast, grilled cheese and guacamole for lunch, and potato soup for dinner. I picked black bean brownies for dessert. I thought they would be sweet, but they weren’t. (That was a recipe from my two year sugar fast. It used dates to sweeten.)
This is a lovely little girl. We are excited to see how God continues to train and shape her for His kingdom!